STEREOTYPES IN ADS, BETWEEN A WILL TO ERASE THEM AND CULTIVATING THEIR BIAS

Stereotypes are basically oversimplified ideas that people have and unfortunately convey. For example, people think that because you study / studied in X university, this makes you a lazy or a brilliant person. But among the people I have met so far, I found the best and the worst in both cases. Exceptions? Well, they are exceptionally numerous… Stereotypes have also been a source of inspiration for many agencies to create their campaigns, assisting brands in their marketing through the best and the worst. Announced beginning of March 2015, the Glass Lion may change some classics. What future to expect for our beloved stereotypes in ads? 

Is that your final answer?
While walking in the street or watching TV, or listening to the radio, have you ever encountered some ads and told yourself whether (a) “this is a joke and I probably don’t get the “subtle” irony”, (b) “there was a mistake in the execution, so the brief was probably badly made or misunderstood”, (c) “the MarCom Director is unqualified or the agency is, or they are both”, (d) “this is another ad to cultivate stereotypes”. When I see ads showing women doing the home chores and girly versus boyish toys given in children’s happy menu boxes, I hope for (a) or (b) but I usually end up ticking (c) and (d). Fortunately, you have some creative brands and agencies that play the card of stereotypes, but to denounce them.

 

Let’s have a glass of change
In our capitalist world, competition has always been a good driver to make the market move and change. The triple bottom lines of sustainability do not derogate to this rule.  In the ad world, brands and agencies satisfy their social and environmental duties in their campaigns – in a way – so that their economic perks are realized as well. So yes, to go forward the change, the ad world seems to need an international and well-known competition. Wish fulfilled! The Glass Lion has come. This year, at the Cannes Lions there will be the ‘Glass Lion: The Lion for Change’, which will honor work that challenges gender stereotypes. After “See It Be It”, Cannes Lions pursues its commitment in changing deeply rooted MarCom old-fashioned messages: the ones that promote gender inequality. Entries for this Lion closed last 27th March. I just wonder how many and which agencies have applied? No, no, let’s rephrase it. How many and which agencies have produced campaigns that can compete for this Lion? Hopefully lots of them. But I do wonder if they are truly committed in bringing change. I mean an agency which produces a good campaign fighting classical gender bias, but at the same time produces others using classical stereotypes would be not only hypocrite, but this would remove the basic sense of the Glass Lion, don’t you think so?

Borderlines without borders
In an international competition, you cannot do without borders. Based on a region or a country, brands cannot be advertised in the same manner. Cultural traditions and customs are deeply rooted in each society. Just take the breakfast. Cut Video and Kitchenbowl have made a video showing American children tasting different countries’ traditional breakfast. Their innocence expresses quite surprising reactions. But besides their cute grimaces, this video emphasizes well how the place where we grow and are raised builds our perceptions of the world. For some, eating salted food in the morning is inconceivable. In France you eat olives as an appetizer not for breakfast like in Turkey. Cut Video also breaks classical physical appearance stereotypes. I’m pretty sure that many viewers thought that the American boy with Asian origins would automatically appreciate the Korean traditional breakfast.

How many times did I get a doubtfully look when I was telling people I was French? I can tell you I would be very rich today if I got a coin every time I got that and the amalgams between all Asian nationalities. What is funny is that people expect you to know the country they think you are coming from, in terms of history and traditions. I’m sometimes tempted to tell them anything that comes to my mind, but I refrain myself from creating potential stereotypes. Traditional meals are an easy and playful example, but so many other specificities exist. Catch phrases, common jokes or celebrities are linked to places, as well as stereotypes. A big challenge for brands and agencies, which have to harmonize globally their campaigns and use local blinks. But luckily there are global stereotypes, the ones related to gender inequality. Having more campaigns emphasizing the absurdity of society’s stereotypes may help these biases to change and maybe, one day, erase them. Lions Festivals CEO Philip Thomas hopes for a “real change across the industry and society”. With this new Lion Glass, I hope we will come up with only one option: (e) “what a great campaign with great content!”